Dumenil Levy - The Crisis of Neoliberalism

Dumenil Levy - The Crisis of Neoliberalism

(Parte 1 de 5)

The Crisis of N eo liberalism

Gerard Dumenil Dominique Levy

Cambridge, Massachusetts London, England 2011

Copyright © 2011 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College All rights reserved

Printed in the United States of America

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Dumenil, Gerard.

The crisis of neoliberalism I Gerard Dumenil and Dominique Levy. p. em.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 978-0-674-04988-8 (alk. paper)

I. Global Financial Crisis, 2008-2009. 2. Neoliberalism-United States. 3. Capitalism-United States. I. Levy, Dominique. I. Title. HB37172008.D86 2010 330.973-dc22 2010006788



The Historical Dynamics of Hegemony 7 2 Anatomy of a Crisis 3

3 The Benefit of Upper Income Brackets 45 4 The Apotheosis of Capital 5


5 The Managerial and Popular Classes 73 6 A Theoretical Framework 90

7 A New Financial Sector 101 8 Free Trade and the Global Financial Boom after 2000 113 9 A Fragile and Unwieldy Structure 125 vi Contents

10 Declining Accumulation and Growing Disequilibria 143 1 The Mechanics of Imbalance 156


12 The Second Reprieve: The Housing Boom and Crash 173 13 Feeding the Mortgage Wave 185 14 Losing Control of the Helm in Times of Storm 195

15 A Stepwise Process 207 16 The Seismic Wave 213 17 The Financial Structure Shaken 221

18 The State to the Rescue of the Financial Sector 228 19 The Great Contraction 244 20 World Capitalism Unsettled 253

21 Eighty Years Later 267 2 Policies and Politics of the New Deal 281

23 Economic Requirements 297 24 The National Factor 309 25 Beyond Neoliberalism 326

Appendix A. The Dynamics of Imbalance: A Model 339 Appendix B. Sources 345 Appendix C. Acronyms 351 Notes 353 Index 369


From the Subprime Crash to the Great Contraction

The crisis that began with the subprime loan crash of August 2007 in the United States will remain a distinctive milestone in the history of capital ism. From its onset, the financial turmoil took unexpected proportions. The shock gradually unsettled the fragile financial structure that had been built during the previous decades and destabilized the real economy. By Sep tember 2008, it became evident that capitalism was entering into a deep and lasting crisis, a Great Contraction, reminiscent of the Great Depression.

The Crisis of Neoliberalism

Neoliberalism is a new stage of capitalism that emerged in the wake of the structural crisis of the 1970s. It expresses the strategy of the capitalist classes in alliance with upper management, specifically financial managers, in tending to strengthen their hegemony and to expand it globally. As of2004, when our book Capital Resurgent: Roots of the Neoliberal Revolution was published by Harvard University Press, this strategy appeared successful, based on its own objectives, the income and wealth of a privileged minor ity, and the dominance of a country. The contemporary crisis is an out come of the contradictions inherent in that strategy. The crisis revealed the strategy's unsustainable character, leading to what can be denoted as the "crisis of neoliberalism." Neoliberal trends ultimately unsettled the foun dations of the economy of the "secure base" of the upper classes-the capa bility of the United States to grow, maintain the leadership of its financial

2 Introduction institutions worldwide, and ensure the dominance of its currency-a class and imperial strategy that resulted in a stalemate.

A New Social Order-A Multipolar World

The crisis of neoliberalism is the fourth structural crisis in capitalism since the late nineteenth century. Each of these earthquakes introduced the estab lishment of a new social order and deeply altered international relations. The contemporary crisis marks the beginning of a similar process of transition. Not only is financial regulation involved, but a new corporate governance, the rebuilding of the financial sector, and new policies are now required. The basic tenets and practices of neoliberal globalization will be questioned, and production has to be "re-territorialized" in the United States to a significant extent. Accordingly, countries such as China, India, or Brazil will become gradually less dependent on their relationship to the United States. It will be, in particular, quite difficult to correct for the macro trajectory of declining trends of accumulation and cumulative disequilibria of the U.S. economy once the present Great Contraction is stopped.

In any event, the new world order will be more multipolar than at pres ent. Further, if such changes are not realized successfully in the United States, the decline of U.S. international hegemony could be sharp. None of the urgently required tasks in the coming decades to slow down the com parative decline of the U.S. economy can be realized under the same class leadership and unchecked globalizing trends. The unquenchable quest for high income on the part of the upper classes must be halted. Much will depend on the pressure exerted by the popular classes and the peoples of the world, but the "national factor," that is, the national commitment in favor of the preservation of U.S. preeminence worldwide, could play a cru cial role. The necessary adjustment can be realized in the context of a new social arrangement to the Right or to the Left, although, as of the last months of 2009, the chances of a Left alternative appear slim.

It is important to understand that the contemporary crisis is only the initial step in a longer process of rectification. How long this process will last depends on the severity of the crisis, and national and international political strife. The capability of the U.S. upper classes to perform the much needed adjustment and the willingness of China to collaborate will be crucial factors. A crisis of the dollar could precipitate a sequence of events that would alter the basic features of the process.

Introduction 3

In the coming decades, the new social and global orders will have to con front the emergency situation created by global warming. These issues lie beyond the limits of the present study, whose focus is on the crisis. Stron ger government intervention and international cooperation will also be required in these respects that add to the necessity of the establishment of renewed configurations beyond the wild dynamics of neoliberal capitalism.

Abstracting from the updating of some of the series, the last changes to the present text were made in October 2009, and there is obviously more to come. It would be unrealistic, however, to expect a final outcome in the near future. The book covers the causes of the crisis, its outbreak, and the first phase of the contraction of output around the globe, as well as the perspec tives for the coming decades. The viewpoint is analytical, not normative.

The Strategy of the U.S. Upper Classes in Neoliberalism: The Success and Failure of a Bold Endeavor

Two very distinct categories of phenomena are involved in the analysis of the contemporary crisis: the historical dynamics of capitalism, on the one hand, and financial and macro mechanisms, on the other hand. The inter pretation of the crisis lies at the intersection of these two sets of processes, and the difficulty is to do justice to both and account for their reciprocal relationships.

Neoliberalism should be understood as a new phase in the evolution of capitalism. As such, it can be described intrinsically-its basic mechanisms and contradictions. The reference to a most recent phase raises, however, the issue of previous phases. The comparison with earlier periods reveals the traits proper to the new period. The analysis of the social, political, and economic trends that led to the establishment of neoliberalism is also tell ing of the nature and fate of this social order. Symmetrically, the notion of a crisis of neoliberalism implies a possible transition to a new phase, and the nature of the society that will prevail in the wake of the contemporary crisis is a major component of the investigation here.

Thus, some preliminary questions must be answered. What is a phase of capitalism? How are such phases established? How do they disappear? What are the specific features of neoliberalism as such? The goal of the first chapter is to interpret the rise and fall of neoliberalism under U.S. world hegemony in the broader context of the historical dynamics of capi talism. The proper financial crisis and, later, the sharp contraction of out put in the United States and around the globe define a second set of issues. There are two important facets of these mechanisms. One relates to the

6 The Strategy of the U.S. Upper Classes in Neoliberalism dramatic expansion of financial activity and financial deregulation. A de gree of technical complexity is involved here, given the astounding capa bility of the financial actors to innovate (as in securitization, derivative markets, etc.). Macroeconomic mechanisms define a second ensemble of factors. The main variables of concern are consumption and investment, foreign trade, and the internal and external debt of the U.S. economy. And the two sets of mechanisms, financial and macro variables, can be ade quately understood only in relation to each other. For example, the growth of the domestic debt, a basic component of the U.S. macro trajectory, re lied on the new financial devices that made it possible. This is the focus of Chapter 2, which sketches the overall framework of analysis and conclu sions concerning the analysis of the financial crisis and the contraction of output.

The purpose of Chapters 1 and 2 is to summarize the overall argument and, more fundamentally, to introduce a number of basic notions and mechanisms discussed in the rest of the book in a more detailed manner, and for which empirical evidence is provided.


The Historical Dynamics of Hegemony

The present chapter focuses on hierarchies among classes and countries, more specifically, neoliberalism as a class hegemony and the global domi nance of the United States in neoliberal globalization. The sequence of formation, climax, and crisis of neoliberalism is interpreted as an episode in the history of the rise and fall of such social and international configu rations. Neoliberalism appears as the latest of three social orders, which jointly constitute modern capitalism, that is, capitalism since the turn of the twentieth century. The rise and fall of each of these social orders can be dated to the occurrence of major crises, or "structural crises," such as the present one. The historical dynamics of international hegemonies are, some how, distinct, although the two categories of phenomena are obviously interrelated. For example, the crisis of neoliberalism adds to the threat pending on U.S. hegemony.

Neoliberalism as Class Hegemony-Imperialism in Neoliberal Globalization

Neoliberalism is a multifaceted phenomenon, the outcome of a whole set of converging historical determinants, and it is difficult to precisely deter mine its beginnings. Actually, the earliest expressions of the new trends were evident from the end of World War I when the basic features of the postwar society and economy were defined. Various developments sur rounding the crisis of the dollar in the early 1970s, such as the floatation of exchange rates, or the policies enacted during the dictatorships in Latin America in the 1970s, can be considered early manifestations. Simplifying to some extent, one can contend, however, that neoliberalism was first

(Parte 1 de 5)